Moral concerns increase attention and response monitoring during IAT performance: ERP evidence

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Previous research has revealed that people value morality as a more important person characteristic than competence. In this study, we tested whether people adjust their less explicit behavior more to moral than competence values. Participants performed an Implicit Association Test (IAT) that was either framed as a test of their morality or as a test of their competence. The behavioral results revealed a smaller IAT effect (i.e. a weaker negative implicit bias toward Muslims) in the morality condition than in the competence condition. Moreover, event-related potentials indicated increased social categorization of faces (as indexed by the N1 and P150) and enhanced conflict- and error monitoring (N450 and error-related negativity) in the morality condition compared to the competence condition. These findings indicate that an emphasis on morality can increase attentional and motivational processes that help to improve people’s task performance.

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